Axios Sports

A large foam finger.

October 11, 2022

👋 Good morning! Welcome back from the long weekend. In case you're wondering, Kendall will be back tomorrow.

Today's word count: 1,472 words (6 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: 🏈 Beasts of the East

jalen hurts celebrating

Photo: Norm Hall/Getty Images

The NFC East has spent years as the NFL's punching bag, but after three more wins on Sunday its 14-6 record is the best among all divisions.

  • Eagles (5-0): They remain the lone undefeated team after beating Arizona, 20-17. Philly's also got a star in Jalen Hurts, whose 6 rushing TD and 8.5 yards per pass attempt both rank second in the NFL.
  • Cowboys (4-1): The defense flexed again in a 22-10 win over the Rams, as Dallas has yet to allow more than 19 points in a game. Only the Bills (61) and 49ers (61) have allowed fewer points than the Cowboys (72).
  • Giants (4-1): With a 27-22 comeback victory over the Packers in London, New York has already matched last season's win total. This is their best record through five games since starting 5-0 in 2009.
  • Commanders (1-4): Washington at least came away with a moral victory when rookie RB Brian Robinson made his NFL debut just six weeks after being shot twice in the leg.

The big picture: This is just the fourth time since 2002 — when the NFL expanded to eight divisions — that any division has had three teams with at least four wins through Week 5.

micah parsons and saquon barkley
Micah Parsons (L) and Saquon Barkley. Photos: Michael Owens/Getty Images; Vincent Mignott/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

More NFL:

  • Justin's automatic: Justin Tucker's walk-off field goal was his 61st consecutive make in the fourth quarter or OT. He's also 18-for-18 lifetime in the final minute of regulation and OT.
  • Streak snapped: The Jets' 40-17 rout over the Dolphins snapped a 12-game divisional losing streak, dating back to 2019.
  • Winless no more: The Texans (1-3-1) got their first win of the year, making this just the third season since the merger that every team has at least one win through five weeks.
  • New protocols: The league updated its concussion protocols in the wake of the Tua Tagovailoa controversy, prohibiting players from returning if they show signs of ataxia — an abnormality of balance or stability. The first player removed under the new rules was Tua's backup, Teddy Bridgewater.

🏆 Read: NFL quarter-season awards (The Ringer)

2. ⚾️ Stat du jour: Pitchers throw gas

Data: Statcast; Chart: Axios Visuals

As the Division Series get underway today, keep an eye on the mound: never before have so many pitchers thrown so hard.

By the numbers: 11 different pitchers have already thrown a 100-mph pitch during these playoffs. That's two shy of the record for most in a single postseason, and four teams have yet to even take the field.

  • Fastest pitch: Mariners righty Andrés Muñoz against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (102.9 mph).

The big picture: This rise in pitchers throwing gas is in keeping with what we saw in the regular season, when there were a record-shattering 3,370 pitches thrown at least 100 mph. The previous record came in 2016, with just 1,948 such pitches.

3. 🏈 AP poll: JMU is in, Illinois is back

AP top 25 college football poll
Data: AP; Chart: Axios Visuals

Georgia reclaimed the top spot after then-No. 1 Alabama was nearly upset at home by Texas A&M, but it's the poll's three newcomers who provide the most excitement this week.

  • No. 25 James Madison is ranked just five games into its FBS tenure, having joined the Sun Belt this season after dominating the FCS for years.
  • No. 24 Illinois is ranked for the first time since 2011, ending the longest Power 5 drought for the second consecutive week (No. 19 Kansas held the distinction until last week). The longest such drought now belongs to Rutgers (2012).
  • No. 22 Texas annihilated Oklahoma, 49-0, for the Longhorns' largest margin of victory ever in the Red River Rivalry.

Conference call: Despite LSU falling out of the top 25, the SEC still leads the way with six ranked teams, followed by the Big 12 (5), ACC (4), Big Ten (4) Pac-12 (4), American (1) and Sun Belt (1).

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

mariners fans holding signs cheering

Photo: Thomas Skrlj/MLB Photos via Getty Images

⚾️ Historic comeback: The Mariners completed the second-largest comeback in MLB postseason history on Saturday, erasing a seven-run deficit against the Blue Jays to advance to the ALDS.

🏈 One coach out: The Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule on Monday after a 1-4 start and 11-27 record overall since taking over in 2020. Carolina still owes Rhule over $40 million.

⚾️ One coach in: The Phillies gave interim manager Rob Thomson a two-year contract on the eve of their NLDS appearance, removing "interim" from his title four months after he took over for Joe Girardi.

🎓 Nike NIL deals: Bronny James was among five basketball players to sign NIL deals with Nike on Monday. Others include Iowa's Caitlin Clark and Stanford's Haley Jones, both first-team All-Americans last season.

⛳️ DJ's big payday: Dustin Johnson clinched LIV's inaugural points title in Bangkok on Sunday for an $18 million bonus. Add that to his winnings through six of eight events ($12.8 million), and he's already earned over $30 million — that's plus his $125 million signing bonus.

5. 💵 Mbappé: World's highest-paid soccer player

kylian mbappe arms outstretched

Photo: Aurelien Meunier - PSG/PSG via Getty Images

Kylian Mbappé will earn $128 million this season, making him the world's highest-paid soccer player, per Forbes.

Why it matters: PSG's 23-year-old superstar supplants both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who'd held the top two spots on this list every year since 2014.

By the numbers: The top 10 will cumulatively earn a record $652 million, up 11% from last year's $585 million. They play for seven clubs and have a combined 1.3 billion Instagram followers.

  1. Mbappé, PSG: $128 million ($110 million on-field; $18 million off-field)
  2. Messi, PSG: $120 million ($65 million; $55 million)
  3. Ronaldo, Manchester United: $100 million ($40 million; $60 million)
  4. Neymar, PSG: $87 million ($55 million; $32 million)
  5. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: $53 million ($35 million; $18 million)
  6. Erling Haaland, Manchester City: $39 million ($35 million; $4 million)
  7. Robert Lewandowski, Barcelona: $35 million ($27 million; $8 million)
  8. Eden Hazard, Real Madrid: $31 million ($27 million; $4 million)
  9. Andrés Iniesta, Vissel Kobe: $30 million ($25 million; $5 million)
  10. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City: $29 million ($25 million; $4 million)

6. 🇺🇸 Photos across America

travis kelce celebrating td
Photo: Jason Hanna/Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo.— Travis Kelce scored a "Monday Night Football" record 4 TD as the Chiefs — down 17-0 early — came back to beat the Raiders, 30-29.

  • 🏈 Wild stat: The Raiders are 1-4, but their scoring differential is just -5, with their four losses coming by 14 points combined.
soccer player celebrating with son
Photo: Chris Gardner/Getty Images

SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake's Justin Meram celebrates with his son on Sunday after clinching their playoff spot with a final-day victory for the second consecutive season.

  • 🏆 The big picture: Salt Lake is one of just three teams in the playoffs who've won the MLS Cup before (NYC FC, LA Galaxy).
chicago marathon crowd
Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

CHICAGO — Sunday's marathon saw two women accomplish incredible feats: Emily Sisson demolished the American record by 43 seconds and Susannah Scaroni won the wheelchair race for her third top-three finish in the past three weeks.

driver celebrating amid confetti
Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

CONCORD, N.C. — Christopher Bell celebrates his victory as the NASCAR Cup Series playoff field is narrowed to eight drivers with four races left.

7. 🌎 Photos around the world

max verstappen celebrating championship
Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

SUZUKA, Japan — Max Verstappen clinched his second straight F1 championship with Sunday's win, his 12th of the season.

erling haaland leaping for a header
He didn’t score on this header, but look at that leap! Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

MANCHESTER, England — Erling Haaland on Saturday scored his 15th Premier League goal in just his ninth game, obliterating the previous record for fastest to 15 EPL goals (15 games).

  • ⚽️ By the numbers: He has nearly twice as many goals this season as second place (Harry Kane, 8).
nashville predator Nino Niederreiter celebrates goal
Nino Niederreiter celebrates a goal. Photo: Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

PRAGUE — The Predators are off to an early 2-0 start, sweeping the Sharks in their season-opening Global Series matchup over the weekend.

england scores on uswnt
England's Lauren Hemp scores in the 10th minute. Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

LONDON — The USWNT fell to England on Friday, 2-1, in front of 76,893 fans at Wembley, the largest crowd to ever watch a USWNT friendly.

8. 📺 Watchlist: Eight teams left

mlb logos of division series matchups

Graphic: Axios Visuals

All four Division Series begin today, and three of them take the name literally as they're being fought between divisional foes.

  • 1pm ET, Fox: Phillies at Braves ... Ranger Suárez (10-7, 3.65 ERA) vs. Max Fried (14-7, 2.48). ATL won the season series, 11-8.
  • 3:30pm, TBS: Mariners at Astros ... Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.20) vs. Justin Verlander (18-4, 1.75). HOU, 12-7.
  • 7:30pm, TBS: Guardians at Yankees ... Cal Quantrill (15-5, 3.38) vs. Gerrit Cole (13-8, 3.50). NYY, 5-1.
  • 9:30pm, FS1: Padres at Dodgers ... Mike Clevinger (7-7, 4.33) vs. Julio Urías (17-7, 2.16). LAD, 14-5.

More to watch:

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Illustration of a bat and baseball in the shape of a question mark

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Can you name last year's four Division Series matchups?

  • Hint: Two were between divisional foes.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🍿 Top plays: Weekend edition

Talk tomorrow,

Jeff "SpongeBob" Tracy

Trivia answer: Red Sox over Rays; Astros over White Sox; Braves over Brewers; Dodgers over Giants

🙏 Have a great day! Follow us for more (@kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy). Friends can sign up here. Thanks to Bryan McBournie for copy edits.